Every once in a while Hilde and I need to remind ourselves that there's more to the world than the house and doctors' offices. So when I saw there was a barbeque festival being held this weekend in Scottsdale, I went ahead and got tickets.
The Arizona BBQ Festival was held on the grounds of Salt River Fields, a large multi-diamond baseball/sports facility. Besides numerous BBQ and other food vendors, there was live music, cooking demonstrations, the Redneck Games Arena---
---where they had such events as Dead Lawnmower Racing, Hubcap Hurling, Arm Wrestling, and Bobbing For Pigs Feet. We left a little early to catch the contests for Best Redneck Moustache, Best Redneck Tattoo, and Best Daisy Dukes & Cowboy Boots.
There was also a children's area, with lots of inflatable slides and other activities for the kids there.
We caught several of the cooking demonstrations. The 4:00 event was Chef Craig Driml of Uncle Bear's Grill & Bar (a growing chain of "comfort food" -- burgers, pizzas, BBQ, chili, etc -- restaurants, named after the owner's dog), where some very nice pulled pork sliders were prepared and served to the audience.
The 5:00 demo was by Chef Mel Mecinas from the Four Seasons Resort in North Scottsdale. The Four Seasons is very upscale, and I have to say there was a noticeable difference in quality between Uncle Bear's food ("very nice", as I said above) and the brisket and coleslaw prepared by Chef Mecinas. The brisket was excellent, deeply flavored, pulling apart easily, and served so fresh from the oven that the slices of meat were still hot enough to zing your fingertips if you tried to eat the brisket by hand. But what really impressed me was Mecinas' coleslaw.
I detest coleslaw. It always seems to be a standard side dish for BBQ, fried chicken, and other comfort-food dishes, and it always sucks. It takes ingredients that are perfectly usable and edible in other dishes, and combines them into a product to which the best reaction is "Blehhh." In the last forty years or more, I don't think I've eaten more than a teaspoon or two of the default-coleslaw found on most tables. But I tried a forkful of Mecinas' coleslaw... and I wanted more. Holy crap, it tasted good. Really no-frikkin'-around good.
I wasn't the only person in the demo's audience impressed by the coleslaw. Mecinas was asked if a recipe was available. No, actually; he'd thrown the coleslaw together by eye and taste, and didn't have formal proportions or measurements available. But here's the list of ingredients, as closely as I could hear or reconstruct them. (The helicopter-rides vendor was close by, and copters taking off or landing occasionally drowned out the audio in the cooking demo tent.):
- Napa cabbage
- Fresh tarragon
- Celery seed
- 2 parts creme fraiche
- 1 part mayonaisse
- Sherry vinegar
- Cider vinegar
There may also have been a dash of kosher salt and/or pepper in there. But now I want to go to Four Seasons and try their restaurants.
One of the bands listed to perform at the Festival, Voodoo Swing, sounded like the type of fast-beat, pounding-rhythm ("Rockabilly" is the usual term) performers I frequently enjoy. But Hilde and I were still in line at one of the food vendors on the opposite side of the Festival when they began their set. Which was actually a good thing. I've complained before that too many live performers seem to feel obliged to turn their amplifiers to "11" when they're playing in public. Voodoo Swing appears to be yet another. I could hear their music pretty damn well even way over in the food court area. If I'd been in the official audience area by the bandstand, it would have been physically painful.
As it turned out, I did enjoy Voodoo Swing, as long as I was far enough away to hear them at a tolerable level. Here's a YouTube video for "My Rockabilly Martian Gal" from their latest album. (C'mon, could I really write a post this long without including a science-fiction connection?)
And that's how we spent an afternoon actually acting like normal people.